Everyday Heroes: Gary Coupland

Gary CouplandHaving played rugby himself for 30 years at Annan Rugby Club (Scottish Rugby BT Club of the season), recently retired police officer Gary has already created quite a legacy for himself in just four years of coaching. Already a sportscotland, UK Coaching Award and Scottish Rugby Youth Coach of the year winner, the sky really is the limit.

Speaking about this success, Gary said, ‘I have actually won three awards this year so, from a personal point of view, I am very honoured that people think what I am doing is worthwhile. It is nice for me, but it really isn’t about me, it’s about the club’s development.’

Gary is the Coaching Co-ordinator, Vice President and Fixture Secretary of Annan Rugby Club, and having increased their participation at mini and youth level by 600%, he is doing just that and much more. By forming a link with Active Schools, Gary began working with local primary schools on behalf of his club and has seen Annan’s youth section flourish while also introducing an annual primary touch tournament, which means that even more children in the Annan area are benefiting. ‘I have had the luxury of having the time to do it (coach), it has been up to 26–30 hours a week on some occasions.’

Gary has a heavy hand in the club’s youth development and a strong strategic vision for culture change, implementing many structural changes as a result. He is completely complimentary though to Annan’s support of his mission. ‘The club themselves have been very supportive and have allowed me to steer the junior section the way that I think it needs to go. I am heavily involved in changing the culture, for want of a better word. We have introduced a one-club ethos. It is not about the first XV or the ladies’ XV, it is the whole club together. We try and encourage senior players to help out at junior games, and we get the youngsters to be mascots and ballboys/girls at some of the senior games. We also try to make sure we have events that the whole club have to participate in.’

As well as delivering fun rugby coaching sessions at mini and midi rugby level at Annan Rugby Club, Gary has also been instrumental in the initial set-up of the women’s and girls’ taster sessions. The women’s rugby team (Annan Warriors) are now well established and this year will compete in the British Telecom Women’s National League Division 2.

Gary’s all-encompassing attitude seems to be the key to his huge amount of success. ‘Everyone counts. It doesn’t matter about your skill level or aspirations. If you want, there is a place for everyone in rugby.’ Gary believes that development is paramount above all else, ‘If you develop the player, you develop the team and then you develop the club.’

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